Take time today to show someone else that you appreciate their gifts and talents or positive influence in your life.
Try not to jump to a negative conclusion – there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, and it’s worth considering a person’s proven character before thinking the worst of a situation.
Boundaries can in fact protect relationships and friendships- you need the time and space to look after yourself if you are to be there for others, and to be a positive influence; don’t feel bad for taking care of yourself, it is a good thing for others as well as yourself, but also respect others enough to kindly communicate those boundaries when you can.
Listening attentively, not just with your ears, but with your mind and heart, is one of the most important gifts you can give to your friends.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a large number of friends – some people are gregarious and find making friends easy – if you don’t, that’s ok; there is great value in cultivating a few deep, genuine and loyal friendships that stand the test of time.
I’ve always been interested in human psychology. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are too. However, don’t you find that there is a marked and poignant difference between those instances where we have a purely intellectual fascination in an aspect of psychology from when we have a personal reason or investment to figure ourselves and other people out? I certainly do. The first approach perhaps is driven by curiosity, fascination, a love of learning and discovery. The second is perhaps tinged more with pain, hurt, confusion and a desire to seek out answers to make sense of things we are grappling with ‘in real life’ and / or to find some kind of mental and emotional healing. Sometimes both go hand in hand as two sides of the same coin.
One area of exploration that has come to my attention over the past while is the use of silence in human relationships, its power and place, its promise, and its pain. I can think of five different people over the past few years who use silence as a form of communication. However, without actually saying anything, how can a person know that the message they are portraying is the one that they want to be received? I don’t know. It’s never been something I have intentionally done to anyone, and never something I intend to initiate.
The Power of Silence:
Silence can be a blessed and a beautiful thing. Many of us will be familiar with the phrase that ‘silence is golden’. What does that mean? Silence is rare, precious, valuable, of great importance, a gift, to be treasured.
When I think of silence as a gift, I think of those precious moments of solitude where the noise of the world fades out, and we find peace in the stillness. I think of times of rest and relaxation, of being in nature, and although not being void of sound, of finding repose in the natural sounds of a babbling brook, of wind rustling through golden autumnal leaves, of gentle birdsong.
Sometimes I think of the beauty and power of silence as those moments when you embrace and hold someone you love and where conversation and chatter cease.
There is power in silence also, as Scripture tells us, in our souls waiting quietly before God. As we quieten down, perhaps in the sense of a ‘retreat’ we can find hope and connection, we can ‘hear God’s voice’, we can feel more grounded in ourselves, more in touch with the natural world, and find power in silence in a way that gives us clarity, answers, direction, meaning and restfulness that is all too easily dissipated in a world of noise and rush and hurry.
There is Power in Silence. And it can be Beautiful, as we ponder the vastness of existence, the complexity of the universe, the intricacy of our own souls, the value of the life we live and of the people around us.
The Pain of Silence:
Sadly, however, there can also be pain in silence. Perhaps you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and you miss the sound of their voice.
But what of other types of silences in human relations and psychology? Silence that is not so much about absence as it is about presence? It’s something I am trying to understand a little more of just now, for the latter reason in the opening to this post.
Silence as a healer – sometimes we all find that we need to retreat, to pull away from the noise of the world and other people, and take time to be still and to heal, and this can be a beautiful yet painful thing. I personally am the kind of person who needs a lot of quiet time, time in nature, and time away from the crowds. Time to pray, to connect, to be still, to write, to understand. Sometimes we are more aware of our pain in times of silence, but inevitably, if used well, it is a positive aspect of human life to take time out to be still, to be quiet, and can indeed be very healing.
Sometimes I feel the need for taking a few days to myself to find the benefits of silence, and time with God, alone. In such instances, I communicate and let the people closest to me know that this is what I’m doing, so that they know that the quiet time is to do with my own needs for personal growth, and nothing that they might have done wrong.
As we seek to grow in ourselves, we would be wise and mature to reflect upon how our actions and inactions might affect or be interpreted by those around us, especially those with whom we are usually in most contact with so as not to cause unnecessary hurt or misunderstanding. I live on my own, but if I want to have some focused quiet time to myself, I’ll phone my family and let them know, and they respect that and give me some space and when we come together we have a healthy and loving place to pick up from.
Thinking of other people as well as ourselves helps to overcome misunderstanding, hurt and confusion, and it is a kind and responsible approach to life that we all do well to be mindful of.
However, sometimes silence is used in interpersonal relationships to hurt rather than to heal. Why is this?
Perhaps you have a spouse, a family member or close friend with whom you have either used or experienced ‘the silent treatment’ from. How do we interpret this and what could it mean?
I’m not an expert, but as I try to figure some things out, my ponderings have led me to believe that silence when used by one person against another could perhaps convey some of the following:
1. The need for space:
Sometimes people use silence as a way of forming and setting boundaries with other people, of highlighting the distinction of one from another, and of asserting individuality. Men and women communicate differently, and sometimes men are silent, not in a manipulative way, but just because they want space and time to think about things, whereas women’s default communication style seems to be to talk things through. However, regardless of gender, people more generally can be silent because they may be subconsciously or intentionally creating space, distance, and be thinking through some things by themselves.
2. Silence as avoidance:
Whereas with the first point above, silence and space could come from a natural gravitation towards ‘problem solving’, or thinking things through, it can also be used more negatively as a form of avoidance. Sometimes people fall silent as a means of self-protection, of avoiding conversation or confrontation, or because they just don’t want to deal with something and it’s easier just to wish it away, by running away, or creating space.
3. Silence to communicate hurt:
We all hurt each other and get hurt from time to time, it’s inevitable in any human relationships, and for the most part in healthy interactions it is totally unintentional. Still, sometimes we just need time to be silent to either deal with and process or to communicate hurt that someone has caused us. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t caused me hurt or offence in some way at some time, and being human I must reflect that it must be the case that I have unintentionally done to others similar things as they have unintentionally done to me. To err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we feel it is all we can do to slink away, to nurse our wounds, and to come back when we are ready. For the most part I don’t tell people of all the things they do that hurt me because I know their character that they are kind people and don’t intentionally mean to do the things they do, just as I don’t if I cause people to feel that way – I don’t do this because overall I know that I can maturely bring my ‘issues’ before God and seek His strength, wisdom and grace and move on in healthy communication. The point is the intention to continue to build upon healthy relationships.
4. Silence as a weapon:
Unfortunately some people use silence, whether intentionally or only partially so, as a means of control, of negative communication, of power, and even punishment or manipulation. Certain personality types such as narcissists may have these tendencies, and may use silence to hurt other people, to cause concern, confusion, self-doubt in the other person as to what they have done wrong to ‘deserve’ being ignored, or to illicit a response.
I’d like to think that people like that are few and far between. I have come across, and worked with people like that in the past, but I’d like to think I can safely say that all of the people I consider friends do not set out to hurt or manipulate people by using silence.
And yet, I find that friends can and do use silence as a means to communicate, quite loudly, the problem being that maybe they aren’t aware of the message that is being conveyed.
On the receiving end:
Being on the receiving end, unexpected silences from friends can convey the following, whether true and intended, or not:
You have offended me, and I will not tell you why.
You are not important to me.
I can’t deal with you.
You have served your ‘use value’ to me, I don’t need you or your friendship any more.
I discard you.
I don’t want you to be involved in this aspect of my life / my life.
I’ve moved on, and don’t consider the friendship important enough to communicate this to you.
My feelings are more important than yours, you should know why I am silent, and if you don’t you should figure it out.
I don’t want to deal with confrontation, so I’ll do things on my own terms, managing my own feelings, and will try not to worry about if I have hurt you, because I can’t really handle that.
You’re too much for me, these things….xxxxx……about you bother me, but I don’t know how to tell you that.
I have a new life, new friends now, you’re in the past but I don’t want to offend you by telling you this, so I’ll just move on and hope you figure it out – no hard feelings.
I’m moving into a new season of life, I have new people, I wish you all the best, but the past is the past, hopefully you can understand that from the silence.
I don’t like you.
I’m too good for you.
I’m too busy for you.
You’re a nuisance and inconvenience in my life, I’m better off without you, please leave me alone.
So in case you feel you have good reasons to use silence in a relationship or friendship, be aware that it could be misinterpreted, cause a great deal of hurt and confusion, and can leave the other person feeling used, washed up and discarded.
However, if you find yourself on the receiving end and thinking any of the above, try not to internalise these things, however hard that might be. Most likely those things aren’t true or valid, or aren’t entirely so, and we all have things going on in ourselves and the person treating you in what feels like the above ways probably (or hopefully) doesn’t intend you to feel any of those bad things. Be kind to yourself, communication takes courage, so be gentle with yourself and with those people in your life who don’t really know how to do that well, and so prefer to risk causing greater hurt through silence. We all need a bit of work, and we all need a lot of grace, so focus on being loving, kind, gentle, and understanding, try to gain insight, and try to be the type of person that you aspire to be – one that is kind, patient, loving, understanding, gentle, keeps no record of wrongs, forgiving, helpful, strong, courageous, communicative, an encourager and a blessing to others rather than a source of hurt.
The Promise of Silence:
As you can see from the above, silence leaves room for a whole lot of things! It can leave room for healing, for growth and for hope, but conversely it unfortunately, when communication is withheld can leave room for miscommunication, false beliefs, hurt, pain, negativity, and confusion. Be careful how you use silence in your life, and the lives of others. Don’t abuse it, because you never know how much you could unintentionally lose when you’re not brave enough to bring things to the light. Don’t let things fester, be honest in your communication – “Speak the Truth in Love”. So you might offend someone by what you say, by wanting to clear things up or communicate how they made you feel. Maybe you will find that you have caused them hurt too and give them an opportunity to help you grow as well. But by bringing things to light and communicating, you create the opportunity for growth, for sharing, for understanding and for a healthy and mature way to move forwards taking into consideration what both parties have to say. Don’t be afraid of that. But speak Truth in Love and with noble and kind intentions. You may just find that people are far more understanding than you give them credit for.
What is of more concern, I think is not the hurt and offence caused by trying to communicate, but the hurt, pain, and confusion by leaving space for things to be imagined, by not saying anything at all. Maybe what you think is ok from your point of view, comes across very differently to your intended recipient. And if you do intend to hurt people by using silence, perhaps it is time to turn away from that in humility and seek Forgiveness.
So, what of the promise of silence?
In the Bible, there are passages where people are calling out to God, lamenting His ‘silence’ and that He seems and feels far from them. I have experienced such seasons in my life. However, I realise that I have a relationship with God and as I grow in that faith replaces fear, trust and knowledge replace anxiety and worry. Why? Because I know my God’s proven character. Where He is silent on something, He is drawing me closer to Him to trust Him. It doesn’t mean that what is important to me, that He is silent on, isn’t important to Him too. He loves me. He loves you. He is a communicating God, and if He is seemingly silent on something it is for a very good reason, and I can trust His Word and His Character – He Is Good, and He Is Love. There is great promise in silence, in knowing Jesus Christ.
However, there is no one else who is so faithful and true. No one. No family member, friend, relationship, spouse or soul mate. There is no one as Faithful, Loving and True as The Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no one else who always has your absolute best intentions in His Heart, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. There is no one else who has or ever will pour out their love in sacrifice to take your punishment and forgive your sins, and draw you into His eternal care, as the Living God.
There is promise in the silences we commit to God. There is hope in knowing that with all the manifold things in our lives that we don’t understand, He does. And He Is loving and gentle and kind and knows how to lead and teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about other people and to learn to live these things out in a way that honours Him as He enables us. God Is always drawing us to Himself, to think upon Him, for His ways Are Perfect. His arms stretched wide on the cross remind us that He Is selfless and calls us to be like Him, to think of others and not just of ourselves.
It can be hard to know how to do this in practice, because we are a bunch of muddled up sinful people. But we are not alone. All we need to do is ask in faith, believing that Jesus Christ Is The Way, and that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
How intensely practical this is when it comes to human relationships, when we don’t know what to do. When we put God first, we allow Him to work in the silence, to bring promise where without Him there would only be pain.
And if you find that you can’t relate to these things, if you don’t believe, then what promise can you find in silence? From where you are just now, you can still find promise, you can find hope and a desire to understand people better, to be self-reflective and think about the impact your behaviour, your communication or lack of it has upon other people, even as you think about what effect they have on you.
None of us were made to live in isolation, we are social beings, but we also have a sometimes intense need for space and silence.
My reflection point for myself, and perhaps it could be for you, is how can I seek to use silence in my life in a way that is borne out of love, and is selfless, taking into account the needs of others and the impact it might have upon them. For me, the only truly wise and loving way to do this, is to look to Jesus. And for those in my life who use silence negatively, and not in the Love of God, I choose to forgive, and commit these silences to Him, to find in Him, their promise. x
People watching – are we more similar or different?
Have you ever been to an airport, in a foreign country, and watched on as people similar, and yet in so many ways different to you, came and went, crossing your path as they continued on a very similar journey to you?
What were the things that you noticed and observed? Were you more taken by the commonalities of being complete strangers from perhaps different sides of the globe who were now living in the bubble of shared experience, or were you more struck by how differently you inhabited this shared experience?
Observing the unfamiliar:
Perhaps you noticed that you and all of these unknown people were all there for the same purpose, going to the same destination, all with passports to that place, boarding cards, suitcases and travel bags, maybe wearing similar clothing and all headed in the same direction.
Or perhaps what caught your attention was how differently you all looked, one from another, the unfamiliarity of overhearing languages that weren’t your own, or the rituals and traditions of families that were so unlike your own. Maybe you noticed that your passports were different colours, and that the clothes you wore were of contrasting styles.
It is fun to notice similarities and differences when we observe people passing through shared spaces such as airports, train stations, bus stations and such like. We can observe without being overly affected because we are all just passing through our shared experience and going on to perhaps a shared destination, but one in which we can part ways with our fellow travellers and continue on our own journey.
The similarities and differences can therefore remain interesting facets of our experience without being intrusions on our more familiar ways of living life.
When ‘cultures’ collide:
However, sometimes cultures ‘collide’ or come together in a more permanent situation that causes quite different reactions than those of amusement, fascination, interest or curiosity for the traveller. What if the shared spaces you were inhabiting with unfamiliar people were to be more enduring than the fleeting experiences of passing through an airport terminal for example?
What if the different culture or cultures you find yourself faced with are not those of people you will see only briefly, but those you will spend time with day after day on a very regular basis? How would that change the way you perceive and experience change? What if the ‘cultural differences’ are not to do with countries, nationalities or location, but are new and different ‘company cultures’? How would you feel then?
I’m learning about this in real time. Last year my organisation was absorbed into its parent company, and particularly into one specific department of that company. The merger brought about a new name for the department and a new identity.
I was involved in the preparatory work of ‘business transfer’, novation and helping to coordinate certain formal aspects of the due diligence and legal work that needed to be done. It was a good opportunity to be involved in something I had never done before, and good to work as part of a wider team from both sides, as the formal transfer of the business was progressed.
Formal and Informal Transitions:
That was the formal side of things. Management often talked of it as a ‘lift and shift’ approach. Priorities were covering all aspects of due diligence, legal compliance, HR, payroll and physical moves, etc. Staff obviously had to be communicated with, but once again this focused on the formal and practical changes and logistics of the merger.
What was not as high on the agenda, however, as the key goal was to legally process these formal changes, was addressing the ‘softer’ transitions that were taking place, particularly in regards to communicating the ‘little things’ to staff, things that may take shape over time, and thinking about how to successfully bring two differing company cultures together.
The situation now is that fellow travellers from one location have now arrived at their ‘destination’ together. However, this new and shiny destination is already inhabited, and this is not a temporary ‘holiday home’ – it is where all of us, old, new and everything in between, will share a space and work together under the same new banner of what we have all merged into. However, being in the same place doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all of one mind, and that is going to be a fascinating and interesting learning curve for all involved.
Birds of a Feather:
Initially, as people began working in their new location, there was a tendency for those who knew each other, even only slightly, from their previous workplace to stick together, have lunch, and take comfort in the familiar. Totally understandable, and shared human nature. They were learning that the ones already here were also having to adjust to changes – changes perhaps in and between teams, working with new colleagues, perhaps even saying goodbye to people they had worked with for a long time who thought it was a good time to move on, and dealing with physical moves and relocation of desks, rooms, and teams. There was also the uncertainty for all regarding ‘what happens next?’, therefore finding comfort in the familiar was a totally natural and expected occurrence.
“The Times they are a ‘Changing”:
Now we’ve reached the stage where most people have relocated into the same building (although others work in different parts dotted around the city, but the majority of the workforce for this newly formed department is now in the one building). People are less reticent about mixing, work has been progressing and new faces are gradually, slowly but surely becoming more familiar. People are gradually settling into new routines, finding their way around, and the new is less daunting. There is more discussion and collaboration between teams. So everything is going smoothly, right? Well, not quite…at least not yet.
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”:
I wonder if you’re familiar with the old American sitcom set in a bar / pub in Boston, starring Ted Danson as the main barman, and featuring regulars and staff such as Carla, the sharp-tongued and tom-boyish barmaid, contrasted with Dianne the gentle, feminine and intelligent waitress, and many other lovable characters from different walks of life including a baseball coach, a postman, a psychiatrist (who later starred in his own programme – ‘Frazier’) among others.
If you’re familiar with the programme, “Cheers”, then you’ll also be familiar with the nostalgic theme tune, and it’s reassuring lyrics:
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got,
Taking a break from all your worries, sure can help a lot,
Wouldn’t you like to get a way, and go someplace where
Everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came,
You wanna’ go where you can see people are all the same,
You wanna’ go where everybody knows your name”.
Isn’t this what we all long for? However, management of change when it comes mainly from the top down, is often focused heavily on strategic objectives, and forgets the human touch. I’ve been involved in some new emergent work following the formal transfer that is focused on engaging with staff to find out their views and to work alongside the Communications team to create a strategy for engaging staff, addressing issues of company culture, of communication, and finding out what they really think. Unfortunately, this has been an afterthought with the powers that be, but the good thing is that at least now, something is beginning to happen.
In one of the staff engagement sessions, I was struck by some feedback where one person commented on the lack of introductions, and the management of change, such that they didn’t even know the names of the people sitting in the desks next to and around them.
Everyone wants to be somewhere where people know their name, and where they know the names of those around them. It takes time, and some may be pessimistic but I view this as a great opportunity not to let slip by. And I am excited to be part of a new piece of work that I haven’t been involved with before.
So as I share these initial observations with you, I encourage you also to find a way in your day today to make someone feel a little more ‘at home’, known, and valued….because sometimes the greatest impacts for positive change are the collection of ‘small things’, little acts of genuine kindness that start from the ‘grassroots’ and grow to eventually reach the top.
I just read an article shared by a friend about the importance of hugs (whether from a parent, partner, spouse, child, friend or pet) for our physical, chemical, mental, emotional and psychological health.
It was a very interesting piece, explaining how the hormones and chemicals in our body and brain produce stress relieving or producing effects that are directly impacted by positive, reassuring, physical contact. such as hugs, or lack thereof. Hugs for maximum wellbeing should be around 20seconds long, but on average they are much less.
I won’t go into the science, but you get the point, and I’m sure you can relate to the sense of wellbeing you have had when holding someone or a pet, or being held by a loved one.
Perhaps you are blessed to have an abundance of hugs so that your general wellbeing is boosted and in stressful times your stress response is lessened. I am very blessed to have a particularly huggable mum who is also an incredibly enthusiastic ‘giver of hugs’! I think my mum probably goes a long way in making up for my ‘hug deficiency’ if it is possible to ‘store up’ the effects of hugs, I’m not sure 😉 Ok, so I’m being a bit tongue I cheek, but the article mentioned a piece of research on the number of hugs required for wellbeing and different levels of wellbeing. And despite facts and figures being what they are, and clearly you have to take this with a pinch of salt, the number of hugs required for ‘survival’ is 4 a day. It sounds a bit like your fruit and veg intake of ‘5 a day’.
Perhaps ‘survival’ can be interpreted in terms of wellbeing and quality of life. As a single young woman who lives alone, and works a full time job, and sees my parents around once a month, my general ‘intake of hugs’ on an average day is….oh, let me count…..um…..’ZERO’.
However, I am still alive….survival rate is 100% so far….yet, quality of life and wellbeing? I do suffer from depression, anxiety and complex PTSD…..however, I am an overcomer, not merely a survivor. I have grown from feeling broken and needy and alone, to growing into somewhat of a ‘girl boss’….and as I stand alone, I am learning to stand tall. But, yes we all need hugs, not that we always want them….I have grown used to my solitary space, it’s what I know. Unless I truly loved someone and felt loved by them, a 20 second long hug would just feel….AWKWARD to me….and I don’t have a pet, so I guess writing is maybe a bit of a ‘wellbeing intake’ for me in a way 🙂
The point of this rambling post is that if you are also ‘hug deficient’ it is important to think about how this might be affecting your wellbeing, and how you can take care of yourself in other ways. Yes, physical contact and connection helps us grow and enjoy life and promotes wellbeing, however connection and contact can come in different forms, and a variety of friendships, relationships and even in solitude we can boost our wellbeing by taking extra care of our bodies, our minds, and making time for ourselves….so you might be lacking in hugs, but you are an amazing human being, capable of experiencing the blessings and gifts of Peace, stillness and wellbeing….even if in solitude….let ‘self care, self kindness and compassion’ (and most importantly to me, connection with God in His Love for me) be your own hug to you! 🙂 That way, you will have more to give to others from a place of strength and not neediness, whenever those hugs do come your way! xx
Travelling teaches you the importance of connection, and of non-verbal communication.
On a basic level, when you’re in a country in which you are unfamiliar with the language, a phrase-book and basic preparation can only take you so far. Many of us take it for granted that someone we meet will speak English, however, even if they do, that doesn’t mean that they will understand your accent, meaning or dialect and vice versa.
Somehow we find a way, and practically speaking, we find other ways of communicating in order to realise our basic needs ~ perhaps one may point, gesture, use facial expressions and / or other non-verbal cues. (As a side note, I am aware, and admit that I speak with a lack of knowledge of how people with sensory impairments manage such challenges, and I apologise for that fact, and welcome any of your insights).
However, communication as a human being goes beyond getting basic needs and wants met. Integral to our humanity is the need for connection with other people, on a deeper level than that of the content of our conversations. And sometimes travelling teaches us this in a way that is unique to any other experience. Travelling teaches us, that as important as language is, we share the ability to connect and communicate as human beings even when words are not spoken or understood. We find a depth and a richness to things that we may have previously taken for granted, such as eye contact, a gentle touch, a gesture of kindness, or even silently enjoying a shared experience (such as watching a beautiful sunset) with a stranger, with whom there is no other means to communicate, other than with the heart.
Travelling teaches you the innate communication of humanity, of shared existence and that we all are Created by the same Hand, and can share the deepest communication by simply being, and ‘speaking’ with the heart. (c).